Quantitation of Integrated HIV Provirus by Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis and Droplet Digital PCR

J Clin Microbiol. 2018 Nov 27;56(12):e01158-18. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01158-18. Print 2018 Dec.


We utilized pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to purify high-molecular-weight DNA from HIV-infected cells. This purification, in combination with our previously described droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assay, was used to develop a method to quantify proviral integrated HIV DNA free of lower-molecular-weight species of HIV DNA. Episomal 2-long-terminal-repeat (2-LTR) circles were completely cleared from HIV DNA samples. Technical replicates of the complete assay, starting with the same specimens, resulted in no statistical differences in quantification of integrated HIV gag sequences in cellular DNA from cells from HIV-infected subjects after prolonged treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART). The PFGE ddPCR assay was compared to the Alu-gag quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay, the most widely used assay to measure proviral integrated HIV DNA. Spearman's rho nonparametric correlation determined PFGE ddPCR results to be positively correlated with Alu-gag qPCR results (r = 0.7052; P = 0.0273). In summary, PFGE ddPCR is a sensitive, reproducible, and robust method to measure proviral integrated HIV DNA and is theoretically more accurate than previously described assays, because it is a direct measure of integrated HIV DNA.

Keywords: HIV; integrated DNA; latent reservoir; pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field*
  • Gene Products, gag / genetics
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV Long Terminal Repeat / genetics
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Proviruses / genetics*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction* / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Virus Integration / physiology*


  • DNA, Viral
  • Gene Products, gag